The lights are up, mics are on, and the film is about to roll. Is your heart ready for its close-up?
We often hear cheesy lines about introspective actors asking their directors “What’s my motivation?” Supposedly, understanding a character’s motivation in saying a line helps the actor to deliver it better. But it’s not just method actors who need to examine the motivations of what they’re about to do: To succeed at the role of You in the movie of your life, you’d better makes sure that the motives behind your actions are right as well.
“What does this have to do with money?” you ask. Well, money can be a powerful motivator. But when it begins changing the motivations behind important things in your life, money makes a slave of you.
The danger with money is that it can be a false motivation, or it can motivate us to do things that we don’t feel right about. That’s what Paul meant when he said that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Tim. 6:10). When money begins to motivate the things we do, we can end up doing pretty horrible things.
That’s not to say that money is always a bad motivation. Money is the primary reason that I go to work each morning (and I’m willing to bet that it motivates you too). There’s nothing wrong with that — it’s important for people to engage in work, and it benefits our whole society. Money can also motivate things like investing, which helps to build companies and add prosperity to society at large. Those are all good things.
The problem occurs when money begins to motivate us in ways that it shouldn’t, or in areas that it shouldn’t. My motivation for going to work every morning may be to earn money, but my motivation behind the way I interact with my coworkers should be to express the love of Christ to them in the things that I do. If I decide to lie to, cheat or otherwise mistreat someone at work because it will benefit me financially, money has just overtaken the Christ-like motivation, and turned me into someone I don’t want to be.
We see money as a false motivation in all sorts of places in our society. For an exaggerated example, look to the “gold-diggers” who use marriage and sex not as a means of love, but as a way of getting into a target’s wallet. But it’s not just wannabe starlets who succumb to this — every time you do something that doesn’t settle well with your conscience just for the sake of making some money, you’ve let money motivate you improperly. If you are involved in any kind of unhealthy relationship or friendship because of money, it’s controlling you. If you know you’re called to full-time ministry, but are afraid to leave your well-paying day job, you’re being motivated by money. If you feel God telling you to give to a good cause, but you hold on to your cash because you wanted to do something else with it, money has become the authority in your decision making.
When it compels us to do things that we don’t want to do, it has made slaves of us.
The key to avoiding this form of financial slavery is to really know the motivations of your heart. Have that difficult conversation with yourself, your spouse or your friends; ask God to search your heart as David did. If you find something inside there that you don’t like, ask God to replace your false motivations with His heart of love.
Once you get your motivations in line with His, you’ll be ready to play the starring role that He has cast you for.